Just like every other living soul, I believe in something, but after years of working as a psychotherapist, I’m no longer certain that hopefulness is healthy or reasonable.
For some time now, my professional role has been to evaluate, diagnose, and foster treatment modalities that target recovery, well-being, success; mysterious and abstract words of hope that in my opinion often serve as insurmountable barriers to reaching healthy ends. In fact, over the years, I’ve come to believe that hope is a symptom of psychosis, a delusion of sorts, optimism its partner in crime working arduously to coerce the feeble-minded into errantly reaching for an unattainable goal, or worse yet, rendering them immobile on a living room couch or unforgiving church pew.
My days as a therapist have also invited me to believe in a great number of other truths that you may or may not wish to accept:
•There is no institutionalized god.
•Mayonnaise is bad for you.
•Religion is a well-developed hoax saturated with false hope that preys upon people’s fears and ignorance.
•People are unable to accept reality as it is, and consequently possess an overwhelming desire to force their delusions upon others.
•We are mere animals, and just as a car-struck and squashed, fading rabbit flutters in the road, we will all reach an inevitable end.
I am not a child of revolution; I am not an unyielding believer; I am not a special or unique agent of change. I’m a balding, Midwesterner whose days are saturated by poor decisions. If you gaze closely into the mist above your head, you’ll find these little, moist verdicts in the clouds dripping with gooey reminders of my mistakes and wrongdoings. This, not hope, I often tell my clients, is what it means to be human. Making mistakes, this is our universal legacy; this is what binds us together.
After work yesterday, while waiting on the corner, I watched as a new Hummer roared by me; the stalwart rear bumper was decorated with radiating Obama stickers. In the midst of the heavy exhaust, as the colossal tank sped off into the distance and filled the horizon, I watched irony unravel in real time. A Hummer for Obama. Hope in one hand; pray in the other.
As I got into my dilapidated purple Saturn, I was struck with the realization that we can hope and pretend all we want, but nothing will ever change through faith alone. Deluding yourself into believing that an image of a happily, crying Oprah implies the end of racism will never end racism. The truth is not in your television but outside your door. The truth is your scoffing neighbor stepping over the shaking addict in the street; the truth is your unwillingness to sacrifice for another, your unwillingness to do something, anything, to make this world a better place, even if you make a bushel of mistakes along the way.
Today, as I write this very essay, I’ve come to believe that what I believe does not really matter. It is what I do that will define me, and it is what we do together that will define our world, and despite my blind hope and faith dictating otherwise, without action, I will forever be wholly insignificant.
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